What do Cardi B and AOC have in common? They’re better strategisers than the Democratic Party

For as long as the Democratic Party fails to understand authentic social media use, it will fail to mobilise young voters the way organic social media users do. 

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On Wednesday afternoon, award-winning American rapper and social media star, Cardi B, posted a video to her Instagram account that immediately went viral. In it, the hip hop artist called out Trump’s government shutdown over the Mexican border wall and highlighted to her 40 million followers that government workers were being asked to go back to work.

“I just want to remind y’all, because it’s been a little bit over three weeks, Trump is now ordering, as in summoning, federal government workers to go back to work without getting paid,” she said speaking to camera. “Now, I don’t want to hear y’all motherfuckers talking about ‘Oh, but Obama shutdown the government for 17 days.’ Yeah, bitch! For healthcare! So your grandma could check her blood pressure and you bitches could get y’all pussy checked at the gynaecologist with no motherfucking problem.”

In the minute-long video, she pleaded with her fans to take these workers’ rights seriously and to evaluate the state of the country. “This shit is really fucking serious,” she said. “Our country is in a hellhole right now all for a fucking wall.”

“Bitch, I’m scared. This is crazy. And I really feel bad for all these people that gotta go to fucking work to not get fucking paid.”

At the time of writing, her Instagram post has over nine million views and posts of the video on Twitter have views in the tens of millions.

Earlier this week, a report was released by Axios (thanks to data from CrowdTangle) showing that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – the far-left freshman Congresswoman from New York – was the Democrats’ biggest influencer on Twitter, outweighing the engagement of Barack Obama as well as major news organisations like the New York Times. It was reported yesterday that she will soon be running social media workshops for her Democratic colleagues to help them suck less at using Twitter.

While these two stories may seem unrelated, they are crucially intertwined. Because what does AOC’s Twitter stardom and Cardi B’s Instagram rant have in common? They can relate to young Democrats better than the Democratic Party.

The Democrats, despite being the party most young people align to, have always struggled (and failed) to make their party elders social media savvy. For every “delete your account” viral tweet, there are ten bad hashtags, a “Pokemon Go...to the polls!”, and awkward videos and selfies reminiscent of the “how do you do, fellow kids” meme.

The party has made some strides this year with party favourites, such as Senator Elizabeth Warren tanking a beer on her Instagram stories over Christmas and prospective 2020 candidate Beto O’Rourke live streaming his trip to the dentist to highlight issues with the dental care system last week. While both of these instances drew some praise for being “relatable”, they drew just as much criticism for being deeply transparent attempts to make themselves palatable to young people. Not in a way that conveyed “I am trying to understand you”, but in a way that screamed “I am a baby boomer putting on an act”.

This, amongst a whole host of other problems (read: having no stand-out 2020 candidate, internal turmoil distracting from said candidate search), is a hurdle the Democratic Party seems badly poised to clear. While Twitter lessons for Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein may ease some of the pains of those problems, they won’t solve it. Content like AOC’s authentic profile and Cardi B’s candid, and more importantly, clear rant is how the American left is successfully engaging with its young voters. And until the Democratic Party realises that holding twitter lessons highlights symptoms of a greater problem brewing in its political strategy, it’ll be reliant on these young women to do the heavy lifting.

Sarah Manavis is the New Statesman's tech and digital culture writer.